Haazinu

  1. In the first pesukim of this reading, we have three forms of water supporting vegetation. But in the middle of these three forms, we see storm winds attacking it. The storm winds stick out. Rashi says they help vegetation grow and be strong – but they don’t really do this. Rashi was a vinter (a wine maker). As vinters know, harsh conditions improve the wine even as they may damage the bush. The harsh conditions of the Jewish people, described later in the parsha, might perform the same duty.
    1. The text talks of corruption. For law to work, it has to be accepted in the main by the population. Corruption undermines this acceptance. If the law of the Torah is the basis of our relationship to Hashem, then corruption undermines that relationship. This has devastating consequences.
  2. The second reading talks of the borders of the nations being set by the mispar of the Jewish people. We often interpret this as the nations being dependent on our numbers. But when we count Jews in Chumash we normally use the word pekudim  – reckonings (excepting counting of impersonal things like names rather than people). mispar is a much less personal word – like a phone number. The only time the concepts of mispar and world-wide borders being rewritten coexist is in World War II. Empires fell, countries were split – the entire map was rewritten. Perhaps that rewriting was based on the testimony of the mispar (numbers) of the Jewish people – tattooed on their wrists. Those who refused us entry, those who actively killed us, those who fought even when they didn’t need to  – they were all treated differently because of their relationship to our mispar.
  3. The third reading makes reference to the ‘blood of grapes.’ Blood is associated with spirit. We spill out the blood of animals because we have no right to their spirits. Itis fascinating to me that grapes have spirit we can consume. Perhaps this is why we use wine for sacramental reasons. We are imbibing spirit to connect to Hashem.
  4. The fourth reading speaks of our persecutors having aspects of Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities represent great wealth creation without any peace or charity or rest. We are brought low by tremendously powerful and wealthy nations that lack any divine spark.
  5. The Torah promises just as followed a non-god, we will be persecuted by a non-people. But the Torah refers to other gods as being gods – just false gods of wood and stone. Again, looking at history, we can see few cases of an entire nation following a belief system entirely dedicated to materialism. But there is one – the USSR. Communism, in its pure form, raises the material above all else and seeks to eradicate the divine. Perhaps, due to our participation in this, this was our non-god.
  6. The word kaper (from the same root as Yom Kippur) shows up here. It refers to Hashem kapering His earth and nation by punishing those who punish us. What does this mean? I’d suggest it is repairing His reputation and place. But the translation makes this parsha’s storyline become very unattractive. Hashem seems like an abusively jealous husband. He sees us with other men, he lets criminals beat us to within an inch of our lives and then he shoots the criminals because – after all – we’re his wife. Is this really what the parsha is suggesting?
  7. In the final reading, we get an answer. “Set your hearts to all of the words which I bear witness for you this day… For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life…” What separates Hashem from the jealous husband is that we were created for the purpose of having a relationship with him. Angels know too much to have a relationship rather than total obedience. In the Torah, all the goodness of creative acts and Kedusha of timeless acts are building blocks of a relationship with G-d. But if there is no relationship, there is no purpose in having a Jewish (or other) people. While acts of Tov and Kedusha are key to establishing the foundations of that relationship, it is prayer that makes it real. Just as Hashem gave us spirit through His breath, we establish a bridge to that spiritual source through ours.

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